Author's Notes: I really do need to stop doing this. This story is a response to a challenge from 'A Triumverate of Rei' to write a story where Naruto is the bad guy and Sasuke the good guy. Any of you who are familiar with my stories know just how challenging that is likely to be for me. I have a rough idea about the pairings but I'll save them for later.
In the forest near the village hidden in the leaves a desperate battle was being fought that would affect the destiny not only of Konoha but of all the elemental lands. This battle was ostensibly being fought over the ownership of a precious scroll filled with forbidden jutsus. But though none of the participants realized it there was something even more precious at stake.
The heart and soul of one particular boy.
Two bodies collided in the air and both slammed into the ground below. One figure with a scar across his nose grunted in pain. "How did you know?" There was a puff of smoke, and the figure was revealed to be Mizuki. "How did you know I wasn't Iruka?"
A blond haired boy in an orange jumpsuit panted and managed a rough smile. There was a puff of smoke and the boy was revealed to be the real Iruka. "Because I am."
"I see," Mizuki slowly came to his feet and took out a massive shuriken from his back. Iruka also tried to get up, but the many wounds suffered earlier were too much and he remained where he was.
"I would have let you go, but you deliberately sacrificed yourself to let the brat escape. Why?"
"Because I refuse to let a traitor like you have the scroll!"
Mizuki laughed. "So instead you'd rather let that monster have it instead? The monster that killed your parents?"
Though neither of them knew it the real Naruto was only about ten yards away hidden behind a large tree. He had the scroll he'd been tricked into stealing and could hear every word.
"There's no way that demon fox wouldn't use the power of the scroll you know."
"Yeah, that's true," Iruka admitted.
Nearby Naruto felt his heart break, the kind words his sensei had spoken just a moment before… they were a lie. He… he hates me too! They all hate me!
"Sorry Iruka, I need to find the boy and don't have time to waste." Mizuki threw his shuriken.
From his hiding spot Naruto heard the, 'thwunk' as the weapon hit its target. He heard the last cry of pain that signaled the end of Iruka-sensei. That Iruka might have said more had he been given the chance to never occurred to Naruto, he was certain his final words had shown how he'd really felt. I'm glad he's dead! Naruto thought viciously. Everyone hates me! Everyone but the old man. At least now I know why. So I have the Kyuubi inside me huh? Good! Then I really will have the power I need to make them all sorry!
In that moment Naruto made a decision that would have terrible consequences. He decided that he no longer wanted people to acknowledge or respect him. He wanted revenge for everything he had been forced to suffer.
He stood up and deliberately walked around to the other side of the tree he was hiding behind.
Mizuki looked up in surprise as he yanked out his weapon from Iruka's corpse. "So, you figured out you couldn't get away and decided to just give up? That's the smartest thing you could have done. Give me the scroll and I'll let you go."
"Liar," Naruto spat. "You're just like all the rest of them. You all hate me for something that was never my fault."
Mizuki laughed a bit and carefully hefted the shuriken. "Well that's true, but whether it's your fault or not doesn't really matter. You are the demon fox, that's all that counts."
"That's fine," he said and formed the ram sign. "If we're enemies no matter what then I'll just kill you."
"You kill me?!" Mizuki laughed again and took aim. "I'd like to see you try."
Naruto performed the hand signs he had studied with such desperate energy the last few hours. "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu." Smoke filled the entire area. When it cleared there were two hundred clones surrounding Mizuki.
"What?! This is impossible!"
All, the Naruto's grinned as just one spoke in a low voice. "Is anything impossible for me? I am the Kyuubi after all."
Like a wave the clones rushed forward. Mizuki beat off the first dozen but was soon overwhelmed and dragged down.
The original Naruto remained calmly in place as his clones beat Mizuki to death.
Miles away in the Tower the Third Hokage watched the scene play out. Saw Iruka's tragic end as a terrified Naruto was hidden nearby. Then witnessed Naruto come out of hiding to avenge his teacher's death. Sarutobi was surprised to see Naruto capable of such power. He was saddened to see him lose all self control, but could understand it given the circumstances and the betrayal he'd just undergone. He had missed Naruto's final words to Mizuki. If he had heard them he would have been even more worried. As it was things were bad enough.
He sent word to his ANBU to escort Naruto and the scroll to him and to recover Mizuki's body.
A short time later a sullen and quiet Naruto was in his office. Physically the boy was fine. Emotionally? Who could guess?
"Naruto, I want you to tell me what happened." Sarutobi said quietly. There was no reason for him to reveal what he had witnessed.
Naruto nodded and began to tell him everything, starting from the conversation with Mizuki where he had been duped into stealing the scroll. He told Sarutobi everything that had happened but was careful not to reveal his thoughts.
At the end Sarutobi just stared back at the boy sadly. No, there was no way Naruto could be blamed for anything that had happened tonight. Students were taught to trust in their senseis, Mizuki alone was responsible for this night's tragedy.
"You must have a lot of questions Naruto," Sarutobi finally said. "You can ask me anything you want."
"What Mizuki said, was it true?"
Sarutobi slowly nodded. "Yes Naruto I am afraid it is, in order to preserve the village the Fourth Hokage had to use a special seal to lock the Kyuubi into a newborn child. You were that child. That seal that appears on your belly whenever you mild chakra is proof of that. The Yondaime knew the sacrifice you would be required to make, his final wish was that you be seen as a hero."
"A hero?" Naruto said bitterly. "That didn't quite work out did it? People have treated me like garbage all my life and I never even knew why. Well, at least now I know." He looked at the old Hokage questioningly. "Does everyone know?"
"No, shortly after you were born I passed a special law that those who knew the truth could not speak of it to any who did not. I did that with the specific hope that you would be able to have normal friendships with others of your own generation."
"So you mean all the kids in my class hate me just because?" He actually laughed a little. "I don't know if that's better or worse than the ones who hate me for what I have inside me."
"Is it really that bad Naruto? I always thought you had a t least a few friends among your classmates."
Naruto gave a vigorous shake of his head. "Some of them are less mean than others and just mostly leave me alone. But I don't have a single friend, not one. I tried, I really did, but none of them ever wanted to be friends with me."
I should have paid closer attention, Sarutobi thought. He could guess the reason; likely most of the parents had poisoned their children against him. Either deliberately or not the children had picked up the attitudes of their parents.
"What's going to happen to me old man? Am In trouble for stealing the scroll?"
"No," Sarutobi said in a firm voice. "You were the unwitting pawn of Mizuki's. When you did realize the truth you acted exactly as a ninja should in eliminating a traitor and returning the scroll. In essence Naruto you successfully completed a B-rank mission, I intend to have that placed in your record and have you paid in accordance." The old man finally smiled. "I also intend to promote you to Genin for your actions." He opened a desk drawer and pulled out a shiny new hitai-ite. "Here Naruto, take it, you've certainly earned it."
Naruto reached out and took the metal and cloth headband. "So… so I get to be a ninja after all?"
"You certainly do Naruto."
"Thank you old man!" Naruto leapt onto the Hokage and hugged him with all his might.
Sarutobi looked down at Naruto's honest joy and whatever lingering doubts had been left were dispersed.
You're the only one old man! You're the only one who's been good to me and I'll never forget it! I'll make you proud of me I swear it.
And where Sarutobi could not see Naruto had a cold smile very different from the ones he was known for. And I'll make everyone else in this village sorry. I swear that too!